A/N: Not mine. Never will be.

Rated M because of swears. Eventually, the story may devolve into porn. One can only hope.

***

She woke up in the hospital, which was never good, but was, on the whole, much better than the alternative.

She knew she was in the hospital because of its unmistakable smell, that disinfectant and disease smell that she could never quite get out of her hair whenever she was forced to do rounds. Unfortunately for her, Sakura had to rely on her sense of smell, because at the moment, she couldn't see a damn thing. She could, however, feel the bandages wrapped snugly around her head as well as the dull pain in her right eye – or where her right eye should have been.

Lying in her cool hospital bed, staring up at a ceiling she couldn't see, Sakura began to remember. She remembered the mission, and the ambush. She remembered the archer – those bastards always seemed to aim for the medic – and she remembered the arrow. She also remembered reaching up to pluck the arrow out of thin air and being a hair too late.

There had been little choice. The arrow had pierced her eye but had gone no further. It couldn't be left there, even broken off near the tip. It would have been a very easy thing for an enemy to palm or kick the shaft further into her head. So she did the only thing she could do, she gave the arrow a swift jerk. It took the eye with it.

Her head screamed in agony even as she sent chakra to the wound, dulling pain receptors and healing the worst of the damage done. Blood gushed from the socket before she could fully staunch the flow, streaming down her face and leaving a bitter tang on her lips. She got a grim sort of satisfaction as she buried the bloody arrow tip into the neck of an enemy nin intent on finishing the lamed medic off.

The unholy grin that twisted her mouth at the memory alerted whoever was keeping watch over her that she had awakened.

"Haruno-san?" It was Kazuo, a chuunin she had been on a few missions with, including the last one. It was supposed to have been easy. At least Kazuo had made it back safely.

"K-Kazuo-kun," she managed to croak. Her throat was very dry, and she began to wonder just how long she had been in bed.

"Haruno-san! You're awake! I'll go get a nurse." The boy sounded like he was on the verge of tears he was so excited. She supposed she had probably been in the bed for a while. She heard the door open and close as he exited, and open and close again as he returned, apparently with nurse in tow. She felt gentle hands on her, checking her vitals, smoothing down her bed linens, adjusting her bandages. Not a nurse, then.

"Hokage-sama?" She felt the hands stiffen for a moment, maybe from the roughness of her voice, or the fact she had spoken at all. A straw was placed between her lips, and she was gruffly ordered to not drink too quickly as Tsunade didn't need a lapful of vomit on top of all of her other problems.

Sakura grinned at where she imagined her erstwhile teacher to be, "I think I've cleaned up enough of your vomit for you to return the favor at least once, Shishou." Her remark was greeted with a shocked gasp, presumably from a scandalized Kazuo, and an affectionate hand-squeeze from the Hokage.

"You're being too nice," Sakura ventured suspiciously. "How bad was I?"

"Pretty bad, Sakura." Tsunade stroked the top of her young protégé's head. "Pretty bad."

"I remember losing the eye," she said flatly. "I assume I passed out from shock, hopefully after the battle was won."

"You were wonderful, Sakura-san," Kazuo nearly gushed. He would toughen up eventually, she knew, if only he lasted long enough. "Jun-san tried to cover you, but there were too many of them. After that first hit, we thought you might be dead, but then there you were, punching and kicking your way to Saburo-san's side. You watched his back as he used his fire-jutsu to take out the bastards in the trees, and then we all finished off what was left. Jun-san got a couple nasty wounds to the gut from a nin he let get under his guard, and I had a couple broken ribs thanks to a kick I didn't manage to dodge. Saburo-san was just tired as fuck. I think you were the worst off, but you managed to heal me and Jun-san before you.. well.. Man, Sakura-san. We really thought you were dead."

She imagined she could hear Kazuo panting for breath after his rambling speech. At least the rest of her team had survived. "Didn't anyone ever teach you guys to take a pulse?" she joked good-naturedly.

"Well, yeah, there was that, Sakura-san, but you looked like hell. All pale and covered in blood and… You weren't really breathing all that well. So they sent me back with you." The boy sounded much more subdued, perhaps from the memory of Sakura sprawled unconscious and bleeding in the dirt.

"Wait, you mean those two idiots tried to complete a four-man mission by themselves? What the fuck were they thinking?" Sakura would have jumped from the bed in her ire just to shake the living daylights out of her teammate if it weren't for Tsunade's deceptively strong hands keeping her pinned down.

"Calm down, Sakura. Those two idiots have been back for three days now. They've been sitting in shifts, along with a few other nuisances, waiting for you to wake up. You just had the bad timing to come around at four in the morning, or you'd have the joy of dealing with a whole host of well-wishers."

Tsunade's brisk attitude couldn't hide the relieved tone in her voice. It made Sakura curious to know how long they had all been waiting. "Well, if they're already back, how long have I been in this bed?" she asked grumpily.

"Five days," was Tsunade's succinct reply.

"What?! The mission itself was supposed to take three days. How the hell did they get back here so fast? Don't tell me they did a sloppy job just because I wasn't there to kick their asses," Sakura fumed.

Kazuo, sounding a little nervous after Sakura's previous outbursts, ventured to elaborate, "Um. I guess the mission itself was really easy. We apparently just got lucky and stumbled on a bunch of Rock-nin out for a good time. They didn't have anything to do with the mission."

"Oh, great. I lose an eye just because a bunch of Rock-nin want to commit mass suicide. Fucking fantastic. Shishou, can we just declare war on Iwa again and wipe the morons off the face of the map? Why didn't you guys do that the last time? Seriously, it's a pity that breathing is semi-automated, otherwise I'm sure they would all forget and suffocate," Sakura huffed in high dudgeon.

"Are you done?" Tsunade asked placidly, well acquainted with her former student's little fits of temper.

"Yes," was Sakura's sullen reply.

"Good. Now, I would like to take these bandages off. I can't release you until mid-morning. You're still full of pain-killers, and while you might think yourself fully lucid, believe me, you aren't. I'm going to give you an antibiotic to help ward off infection. I've healed what there is to heal, but it will probably still be sore for the next few days. If it's still sore after a week, you know you need to get it re-checked. Otherwise, it should be fine. You know how to keep it clean, so I won't bore you. Try to keep it dry."

All the while, Tsunade had been unwrapping the gauze and tape surrounding Sakura's head. Finally, the last bit of bandages was removed, and Sakura blinked her remaining eye owlishly as it was exposed to the pale florescence of her hospital room.

"You'll probably suffer some vertigo. You'll have completely lost your depth perception. Try not to fall down the stairs."

"Thanks, Shishou," Sakura grumbled.

Tsunade continued on as if she hadn't heard her, "Also, I'm taking you off of active duty for a month. It will give you time to get used to your new limitations. You'll have to undergo a full medical review as well as a physical test of your abilities before you're properly re-instated. I know. I'm sorry, Sakura, but I can't have you out there less than your best. Shizune is going to pick up your slack on missions; therefore, you're going to pick up hers here at the hospital."

"Oh, come on, Shishou, you know I hate working here!" Sakura protested.

"Do you want to get paid?" Tsunade asked testily.

"Yes."

"Then you'll be working at the hospital."

"Fine."

Sakura tried to roll over onto her side, her IV catching on the bed-rail and severely limiting her motion. Tsunade untangled the recalcitrant tubing, allowing Sakura to get more comfortable. She reached down and brushed the younger medic's hair from her face, tucking it behind her ear.

Sakura closed her eye. It was weird not being able to close the other. The muscles in her face twitched annoyingly and caused her empty eye-socket to ache fiercely.

"Shishou, my eye hurts. Can I have more drugs?"

"If I give you more, I won't be able to release you until the afternoon."

"I don't care."

"Alright, Sakura-chan."

She felt Tsunade press the tip of a syringe into her IV port, and then she soon felt nothing at all as the pain-killers raced through her system.

The last thing she heard was Tsunade ushering Kazuo from the room before she fell into a deep, dreamless, drug-induced slumber.

***

Several days later, Sakura found herself recklessly hurling deadly pieces of sharpened metal at the trees and targets of training ground three. She had started out attempting to aim but had gradually lost her patience and just started flinging things angrily in various directions. Sometimes a tree would explode, but most of the time her weapons would become lodged six inches deep in the dirt.

What made it worse was that some asshole was watching her. Though, she should have been used to it by now. It seemed that from the moment she had been released from the hospital, someone or another had been hovering over her, either directly or from the shadows. They all seemed to forget that she could fucking sense them. The idiots.

Well, they weren't all idiots. Most of them were being pretty great, but if Ino mentioned investing in a cache of stylish eye-patches, complete with rhinestones and satin lining, one more time, she was going to punt her into next week. She knew it was just Ino's way of dealing with her friend's loss, but Sakura really wished everyone would just let her alone for a while. Maybe she shouldn't have kept asking for more drugs at the hospital. It had mostly been a joke, but it was possible it had set her mentor and friends into a tizzy, thinking that Sakura was going to go self-destruct as soon as they let her out of their sight.

And so, apparently everyone Sakura had ever shared a fond feeling with felt it their duty to make sure that she didn't go hang herself over the trauma of losing her eye. She had been invited to the bar every night for a week, by at least twenty different people each day. It had been kinda nice, not having to buy her own drinks, but she would have rather it been because she was looking smoking hot, instead of everyone feeling sorry for her.

As it stood, she was ready to start stabbing people in the face if they suggested one more inane way to keep herself busy during her enforced absence from shinobi-land. Well, she would start if she could freaking aim well enough to actually hit them. She had thought she had finally escaped her well-meaning pep squad long enough to get in some much needed training. It was a hell of a lot harder to hit things without the use of both eyes than she had expected, as evidenced by the many, many weapons littering the field.

With a final burst of strength, she sent her last kunai in what she hoped was a straight shot at the center of a practice target. It missed by a wide margin, imbedding itself deeply into an innocent tree stump.

Growling in frustration, she went to retrieve her spent weaponry. As she collected kunai and shuriken and senbon, she tossed a glance over her shoulder toward the big tree in the center of the clearing. "Well?" she queried, as she snagged the last throwing star from a patch of tangled weeds.

Leaning nonchalantly against the ancient oak was her ex-teacher and sometimes team leader, Hatake Kakashi. He was dressed in his usual rumpled jonin getup, hitai-ate slumped jauntily over his left eye and hair in a perpetual state of muss. The only thing missing was his beloved dirty book. She waited, teeth grinding and eye glaring, for him to make his point and go.

"So, what the hell is wrong with you, Haruno?" he offered lazily from his position against the tree.

Her only response was a raised middle finger sent in his general direction as she continued to clean and re-pack her weapons.

"Your insubordination has been duly noted."

"Get bent."

"Well…"

"I don't want to know. Hey, how about you just shut up and leave me alone?"

"No can do. Orders from higher up." He gestured blindly back toward the Hokage Tower.

"She sent you to talk to me?" Her eye widened in disbelief. "But I don't even like you," she accused, folding her arms across her chest for emphasis.

"You wound me, Sakura-chan. Deeply," he deadpanned. "Now why don't you tell me what's wrong so I can tell Tsunade, she can fix it, and I can go back to reading my porn."

Sakura's response was to tap her empty eye-socket, "Gee, I have no idea what could have put me in a bad mood, Kaka-sensei. It's a big freaking mystery." She was almost done packing up her gear.

Kakashi gave an overly-dramatic cringe, "That's disgusting."

An inordinate amount of rage filled Sakura's remaining eye, "You know what, fuck you. I'm out of here."

She hefted her pack and made to leave when Kakashi called out, "You aren't really my type, Sakura-chan. Oh, and hey, catch."

Instinctively, she reached to grab the apple he tossed at her, only missing it by a fraction of a centimeter. She stared down at the fruit morosely. Her foot twitched to kick it, but she refrained. She probably would have missed it, anyway.

"Having trouble gauging distances, are we?" the asshole nearly sing-songed.

"No shit. Hatake Kakashi has solved yet another mystery. Will wonders never cease?"

He shrugged good-naturedly, "Nothing a little re-training won't cure."

"Oh, really? How long did it take you?" she shot back.

He paused, and for a moment she thought he wasn't going to answer at all, when he offered simply, "A good bit. A good bit, but.. I don't recall learning new things ever bothering you before. So, while I know it's frustrating to have to re-learn how to kick someone's ass, that can't be what's gotten your knickers in a twist."

He looked like he really wanted his book right about then. His fingers were twitching, and his eye kept slipping down to the space the pages usually occupied. Heart-to-hearts were never Kakashi's thing, she knew.

Well, she wasn't about to make it easy for him. "Nothing's wrong, idiot. Other than the obvious." She again tapped the place her eye had been. It didn't hurt anymore. She had poked and prodded at it for days after leaving the hospital until she was sure she would wake up with a nasty infection, just to remind herself that it was gone.

Kakashi flinched, and she wanted to hit him. "Do you have to do that, Sakura? It's gross."

"I'm sorry that drawing attention to my wreck of a face offends your delicate sensibilities, Sensei," she drawled, her anger rising once more.

"It has more to do with you poking yourself in your eye-socket than your horribly ravaged face, Sakura-chan."

She nearly did hit him then.

"You stupid jackass, there isn't anything wrong with my face!"

His brow furrowed, "Is that what this is all about? Sakura, I was kidding.. you don't really think…"

"I know I'm not pretty anymore, alright!?" she spat. "None of the guys look at me like they used to. I don't know why. It wasn't like they were looking at my face that much, anyway, the bastards. Even you don't stare at my butt anymore. Don't deny it! I used to feel you watching me all the time, but you don't anymore and I don't know why because just because my face is ruined doesn't mean I don't still have a cute butt!"

Kakashi regarded her very seriously for a brief moment. "Sakura, I would be happy to stare at your butt any time, if it will make you feel better," he stated with utter solemnity.

She blinked at him a couple times before her brain finally registered what had just been said. "Oh. My. God."

Suddenly, she sank to the ground in a dejected crouch, hands clutching her head protectively. "Did I really just give you permission to check out my ass?" she all but wailed.

"Yep," was the bastard's cheerful reply.

"Oh god." She clutched her head tighter and began to rock back and forth on her heels, all the while muttering and moaning pitifully to herself about the injustices visited upon her person.

"Sakura…"

"Sakura…"

It took some time before his gentle recitation of her name pierced the self-pitying fog she had wrapped herself in. When she finally looked up, she gasped in shock and promptly fell flat on her cute little rear.

A wide grin broke across her teacher's face, his un-masked­ face.

"I..I.. you.." she sputtered unintelligently up at him. At last she found a word that best summed up all she was feeling. "Why?"

"Is my face a ruined wreck, Sakura-chan?"

"No," she breathed as she continued to gaze up at him in wonder. "No, you're beautiful."

He shook his head, and with a self-effacing smirk returned his mask to its proper place. "Get up, Haruno," he offered her a hand. "And stop drooling. You're getting the front of your shirt all wet, and it's becoming a little distracting." He gave her an unrepentant leer that was only slightly less effective because of the mask.

She pulled herself up, "Asshole," she muttered, and stuck her tongue out at him. "You, Hatake-san, are the biggest jerk ever."

He offered her a happy eye-crease and, stuffing his hands in his pockets, began to walk away, "You're welcome, Sakura-chan."

"Umm.." she ventured softly before he got very far. "Um, Sensei?"

He turned, eyebrow raised expectantly.

"Would you.. would you please help me re-learn how to fight with only one eye?" she forced out in a rush as she offered him a low bow, her hair falling forward to obscure her reddened cheeks and uncertain expression. Her downcast eye made her miss any physical response to her request, and so she waited for what seemed an eternity before he spoke.

"I would be honored." He paused. "Meet me in room twenty-six of the Jonin HQ tomorrow at seven."

"Yes, Sensei," she replied, but she needn't have bothered, he had already disappeared in a whirl of leaves.

***